Jerry Kuntz (Writer)

Exploring American History through Unique Individuals

More on Maud Lee

Additional digitization and indexing of old newspapers has elicited a few new items on Maud Lee, the tragic Wild West show sharpshooter I wrote about in 2010’s A Pair of Shootists. One reason I find Maud (stage name: Lillian Cody) so compelling is that she saw such wonderful things during her career–and then spent her last four decades within the walls of an asylum.

One gap in the timeline I had for her was the performing season of 1897. In January, 1897, she was severely burned while preparing coal-ash resin target balls over a stove. It was the fault of a careless fellow performer horseplaying around with a bucket of water. I previously thought it might have taken her a full year to recover.

But no…here she is running a shooting gallery at the “Vanity Fair” midway of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition:

18970526nashvilletennessean

The Tennessee Centennial Exposition was another one in a series of extravagant exhibitions, with unique buildings, lakes, and pathways built on a large campus. The main attraction of the Nashville show (in an effort to compete with the Eiffel Tower and the giant Ferris Wheel of the Chicago World’s Fair) was a giant see-saw with a 20-passenger car on each end; and a full-scale model of an Egyptian pyramid. The Exposition lasted six months, so that Maud could have spent the entire 1897 performing year there.

A Pair of Shootists makes it clear that Maud suffered often during her high-risk career. A newly unearthed clipping adds another example:

19020703anacondastandard

Maud’s career ended shortly afterwards; this indication of a head trauma may be telling, since her family blamed her later mental problems on a parachuting accident in the early 1890s. My text suggests she already suffered from schizophrenic episodes–does head trauma worsen schizophrenic tendencies?

 

 

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